All you have really got is “now” – the present moment. Now is now.
What on earth do I mean about living in the now? How is this supposed to help in life?
So many of us make a very basic mistake in life in that we move out of the “now” and try either to anticipate life and think or worry about the future; or alternatively, spend time thinking, worrying or perhaps feeling guilty about the past. Think about it. You spend most of your life outside what is present and current and, instead, spend time worrying about the past or planning and being concerned about the future.
I recall seeing a man recently who had been physically threatened by a customer and he was spending countless hours worrying about what might happen if the customer returned (“what if….”). He was anxious and tense and his relationship with his wife was starting to suffer. Among other things, he made a deliberate effort to focus on living in the present moment; and he reported the following week that this little strategy had been very helpful.
Many people worry and think about their futures, trying to anticipate, plan and prepare for what lies ahead. As a result, I often hear people describe themselves as “worry warts”; and they have trouble switching off, especially at night when they want to sleep. They do not enjoy life because they are so preoccupied with possible future events or situations.
Similarly, I have talked to many people who have let past mistakes, regrets and tragedies continue to plague them in the present. They report being depressed or “down” and do not cope as well as they would like.
What is it about children that allows them to have so much fun, be spontaneous and natural? Simply put, they are great at enjoying each moment as it comes. They seem to involve themselves totally in what they are doing. They have not yet learned to be anxious about the future or to let past regrets or mistakes influence their present.
You and I have only the now, this present moment. This is what we can each know about. We cannot do much about the past; it has already happened. We do not know if there will be a tomorrow. We can experience, however, and know about what is called the “now”.
Look around you. As you read this article you are in the now. Whenever you spend time appreciating, acknowledging, responding to the now you are at one with your environment. You are in the “now”.
Interestingly, the psychotherapist Fritz Perls says that anxiety, for example, is experienced only when people step out of their present situation and worry or try to anticipate the future. In other words, anxiety fills the gap between the now and the future.
Living life in the now is one recipe for peace. As you experience your present moment, you have the potential for recognising peace. Of course, there are some present moments that do create tension. But usually they get worse by excessive thinking or worrying. Try a little exercise the next time you are tempted to move away from the present moment by excessive thinking and worrying. Look around you. Is there anything in the present moment to cause you concern? The answer is typically “no”.
Say to yourself: “It’s safe in this place right now, the walls are not falling in on me in this present moment; there’s nothing to fear or to be concerned about.” Living and appreciating the present moment is a way also of having more energy with which to live. It stands to reason that if you spend less time wasting energy living in the past or trying to live in the future, then you have more energy to experience what is happening right now.
In other words, you are not distracted by what has gone before or what you think might happen in the future.
The message is that it is important to live in the now, enjoying the present moment to the full, being thankful for each moment and making the most of it.
Isn’t this a lesson for us? The principle is to be totally involved in what you are presently doing and enjoy the moment fully. It might even be mundane things like mowing the lawns, driving a car or cleaning dishes.
But being thankful for the present moment and enjoying it is important – as though there were no tomorrow! Be thankful, for instance, for the fact that you can see, feel the sun on you, feel the breezes, hear the rain falling, and drink in the scenery. Decide that this present moment is for you to enjoy.
Even if you are lawn moving, make each strip enjoyable. Maybe make it better than the last. Be thankful for the exercise and endeavour to make the most of it. This is one recipe for peace, happiness and contentment.
Living in the now and living every moment to its fullest means that we end up living life itself without undue anxiety and in the way that it was intended.
What would it take for you to commit to being thankful for the very moment you are in? What would it take for you to trial living in the now, even for say, a week?